PART 45: FULL CIRCLE
“Uhhhnnn,” groaned Clarke, gradually regaining his senses. He looked around to find that they were in the somewhat familiar environs of Willowdale park. Corry was struggling to his feet, Frank was looking over the time machine, and Julie, still unconscious, was lying next to him. The bikes and the rest of their gear was in a heap nearby. “Uh, hey, when are we?” he asked uncertainly.
“One day late,” Frank replied. “Either bad luck or I wasn’t able to properly recalibrate the chips. Should be an easy fix though, and we can always write off the missing day as us searching for Julie.” He looked up. “On the bright side, I guess this confirms some kind of geographic failsafe if we have no doubles around.”
Clarke nodded, looking back down at the young brunette. “I’m going to take Julie home then.”
“You do that,” Frank agreed. “I’ll get the time machine and our other supplies stowed away, then go to the hospital to check on Carrie.”
“And I’ll head right there,” Corry remarked. He shrugged at the other two as they stared at him. “What? I’m rather hoping to learn that our four day trek into the past wasn’t all for naught!”
“All right then, I’ll see you shortly,” Frank concluded. The three of them turned to go their separate ways. Completely oblivious to the fact that the world would soon be ending.
“Carrie…” Chartreuse choked out. She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head to clear it before opening them again. Luci was now crouching down next to her.
“Um, Chartreuse… is this what you were trying to do?” Luci whispered, looking back at Carrie. Their friend was now sitting up in bed. Her eyes were glowing yellow, and her blonde hair was rippling out behind her in waves. A remarkable feat considering the lack of any wind.
“No,” Chartreuse answered. “She’s… she’s hurting, Luci, but I don’t understand it. I’m not sure any of us can.”
The two girls watched as Carrie scanned the room. Her golden eyes alighted upon the man sitting next to her, who had been momentarily stunned into silence.
“Carrie?” Hank Waterson now said. “Carrie, is it you? Are you all right now? What–”
“Freeze,” Carrie said calmly, reaching out to touch her father in the middle of his forehead.
He froze. Literally. It was as if he were a mannequin, suspended in time. Carrie then turned to face her classmates.
“Whoa, Carrie… Carrie, you, like, don’t want to do anything rash,” Chartreuse said, nervously. She managed to struggle to her feet with Luci’s help.
“I’m not going to do anything rash,” Carrie replied, her voice far too calm. “I am merely going to make all the hurting go away. For everyone, forever.”
“That… sounds rash.”
“How will you do that, exactly?” Luci murmured.
Carrie paused. “Still working that out,” she admitted. “Perhaps I can shift everything a few milliseconds into the past.” The blonde extended her palm out towards a small glass sitting next to her bed. The glass shattered into a hundred pieces as it tried to coexist with itself, the water spilling everywhere – as had happened less than two weeks earlier.
Both girls jumped. “Or perhaps I can come up with something else,” Carrie countered.
“Carrie, you totally don’t want to do this,” Chartreuse pleaded. “We can fix up this present for you! For Julie too! I know we can!”
Carrie laughed hollowly. “You really think so? Because for the past few weeks, I have been trying to cope with the knowledge that in the first timeline, the true one – I never even existed. Do you know what that feels like? Being aware of a timeline where you had never been born??”
Chartreuse shook her head, not sure how else to respond.
“Not only that,” Carrie continued, “but this timeline where I AM alive has been fraying at the edges ever since Julie pulled that trigger! Yet we cannot change what occurred then, because even if I was never shot, I sense that my powers would awaken regardless, and pull me apart!”
So, Shady hadn’t been lying about that then? Damn.
Carrie shook her head. “This must end,” she finished, dispassionately. “I will end it. It is, after all, the reason I was created.”
“Carrie, wait!” Luci insisted. “Give us a chance to restore things first. Okay? To make this present better for everyone – you and Julie! You won’t need to destroy our timeline then, right? Right??”
Carrie stared at the younger girl. She didn’t agree. On the other hand, she didn’t disagree either.
Which was when they heard an unexpected voice coming from the doorway. “Holy… what the hell is going on here?!” Corry Veniti demanded.
Clarke blinked in surprise at the person who had opened the door of the LaMille mansion. “Tim?” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“In time? In time for what?”
“To stop their t-t-temporal refugee from escaping.”
Not sure exactly how to take that, Clarke decided to ignore it for the moment. “Can you help me get Julie into the house?” he requested. The brunette was now semi-conscious, and standing upright, but she was using him as a support post.
“Allow me to assist also,” Jeeves said, approaching from behind Tim. Between the three of them, they were able to get Julie inside. Laurie gasped as they came into the sitting room.
“CLARKE! Then, my brother? Is he back too, is he okay, why isn’t he here with you??”
“He went to the hospital to check on Carrie,” Clarke explained.
Laurie proceeded to dance nervously back and forth from foot to foot as they lay Julie down and covered her with a blanket. Apparently torn between wondering how she could help them, and wanting to ask more about what had happened.
“Go to Corry,” Clarke suggested once Julie had been settled in.
Laurie looked to Tim, who nodded, and then with a grateful smile, she dashed out of the house, nearly forgetting to grab her jacket in the process.
“Now, what’s this about a temporal refugee?” Clarke asked, looking to Tim.
“S-Some guy from the future,” Tim explained. “Lee didn’t seem too clear on it himself, but apparently this ‘Shady’ was responsible for Carrie being shot. She’s now gained mystical time powers.”
“Wait, back up – it was Julie who shot Carrie!”
Tim shook his head. “She was coerced. Lee said this Shady guy can do mind tricks like some J-Jedi,” he clarified. “And Lee is the only one who’s immune.”
Clarke fumbled to sit in a chair. “And given Julie’s mental state that day… easy target. Damn. How could you let this guy get AWAY?”
“I’m afraid that was my fault, sir,” Jeeves spoke up. “I untied him when Mister Lee’s back was turned. In retrospect I’m not certain why, but he must have said something to me.”
“Lee went out looking for Shady,” Tim noted. “I should maybe call to tell him that J-Julie’s back…”
“Yeah, do that,” Clarke agreed. He sighed. “We’re not out of the woods yet, huh?”
“Luci?” he said in surprise. He watched as she ran down the road, then barely managed to avoid falling down as she charged full tilt into him, throwing her arms around his body.
“Frank, thank god you’re here and still alive!” Luci said. Not sure what else to do, he gave her a quick hug back. The small girl finally pulled away, only to reach up and give his cheek a smack. “Now that’s for making me worry you were gone forever!” she accused.
“Ouch,” Frank protested. “Geez Luci, maybe you have been hanging around Carrie too long. But what’s been going on? My mom was on me about skipping school today, saying something about police coming by? She almost wouldn’t let me leave the house again!”
“It’s all become very complicated,” Luci admitted. “That’s why, when I learned from Corry that you’d returned, I knew that I had to find you. You see, Carrie’s conscious, but Chartreuse believes she’s going to destroy the Earth with her powers unless we can make everyone around here forget about how Julie shot her!”
Frank blinked. “Run that by me again, please?”
“I’ll explain on the way back to your lab,” Luci said. “The time machine, I hope it can handle one more trip?”
“Yeah – maybe more than that, we got the circuits back from Julie. It needs a bit of fine tuning though, and there’s maybe another hour before it’s recharged. Why?”
Luci gave him a quick summary of the day. “But if we can force Shady to explain when he tipped off the police, we can go back and try to stop him then, to undo this. I’m not sure what that means for our present, but with Julie back now, her parents should remember her and the house – and with no police questions, her life is liable to fix itself! I mean, her family will simply be happy to have her home after she was gone for more than a week, right?”
Frank pursed his lips. “Ooh. Unfortunately, Julie’s family situation is a lot more complicated than we first suspected…” He began to explain quickly about his own trip into the past.
“I’m here!” Laurie said breathlessly as she charged out of the elevator. “I’m here, what’s going on, where’s my brother??”
“Hold on, little sis, I’m right here,” Corry said, raising a hand. He was standing a short way down the hall, along with Chartreuse. “Now please, don’t go any further than this point.”
Laurie paused, looking past him and down the hall to see a few doctors speaking in hushed tones and glancing almost fearfully towards a familiar door.
“Why? What… what’s happening there?” Laurie asked.
“We’re not exactly sure,” Chartreuse admitted, stepping forwards. “But Carrie is awake, and she’s hurting, and she kinda, like, wants to destroy all of time. As soon as Corry showed up, she told us to ‘Get out’.”
“Oh. Golly,” Laurie said quietly.
Chartreuse’s look became thoughtful. “Though… you know, you may know Carrie better than we do. You’re a cheerleader on her squad. Maybe she’d be willing to talk–”
“Hell no!” Corry interjected. “Even the doctors don’t want to go in that room now. It’s far too dangerous!”
“Hush, Corry,” Chartreuse asserted. “You had your turn – this is in Laurie’s domain now.”
Laurie swallowed. “But w-what would I even say?”
“That you care about her, despite everything,” Chartreuse suggested. “That we’re trying to, you know, help her. That she needs to give us a chance.”
“What would THAT accomplish?” Corry demanded.
Laurie’s friend shrugged. “Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.”
Laurie stared at both her brother and her mystical friend. She turned again to look down the hall. Towards the girl who was better than her. At school, at athletics, at popularity, at practically everything… including, perhaps, at taking things a bit too far. And Laurie started walking.
“Laurie, wait! OW, Chartreuse that’s my FOOT–”
Laurie didn’t look back. Not even after peering into Carrie’s room, and seeing the doctor and another orderly frozen to the spot, in the same manner of Carrie’s father, who was sitting by her bed. Though the redhead did let out a gasp when Carrie turned to face her. The blonde’s eyes were yellow-gold, and her hair and hospital robe were fluttering around her in some nonexistent wind.
“Why did you come here?” Carrie demanded.
Laurie felt her throat go dry. “W-Well, y’see… Steve’s done a pretty lousy job of substituting for you at cheerleading, so I was kinda looking forward to your return…”
“The school will soon cease to exist,” Carrie interrupted. “Everything will cease to exist.”
“Oh,” Laurie said, nonplussed. “Well, he hasn’t done THAT bad of a job, really…”
“Laurie Veniti,” Carrie said, a dangerous edge on her voice. “I have no desire to talk with you or anyone else who knows about the existence of time travel. You should leave, unless you want to end up like them.” She gestured at the frozen individuals.
“It’s hard,” Laurie said, the words tumbling from her lips before she could even think about them. “Okay? I know it’s hard, realizing that you’re stuck in this box, seemingly unable to do any better no matter how much you try, always comparing yourself to others who seem to have it so much better than you… but you know what I’m realizing? Maybe we’re all struggling. And maybe that’s okay, because when we push at the boundaries of our boxes, we grow, and become more than what others tell us we’re supposed to do and be.”
She took a step closer. “I know what Lee and the rest of them have told me, Carrie, but you’re more than some weapon! You are. To me, and so many others. And I want you to know that I forgive you for what happened way back at the dance, and I want you back at school running new routines for us, and I think that’s gonna be REAL hard if everything will cease to exist, so… so please reconsider? For me?”
Carrie seemed surprised. Her gaze dropped to the floor. “I am sorry,” she said quietly. “I can’t, not now. Now that I know how it’s all going to end. Shady is putting us on a road that has no turns.”
“LEAVE NOW!” Carrie commanded. Her gaze came up, her face twisted in pain and sadness, her eyes glowing, and energy seemed to crackle around them in the air. With a little shriek, Laurie ran back out of the room.
She hightailed it all the way back to the elevator, where her brother grabbed hold of her. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” she apologized, struggling to catch her breath as she clutched at him. “I… I don’t think Carrie’s going to listen to me or to anyone else!”
“It’s all right,” Corry said, hugging her in a reassuring way. “I’m sure you did what you could.”
“Did she say anything, like, useful?” Chartreuse said hopefully.
Laurie shook her head. “No, only that everything will cease to exist because Shady’s putting us on a road with no turns!”
Chartreuse sighed, and the three of them turned to look back down the hall. Then the pink haired girl tilted her head to the side. “Putting. As in, still present tense?”
“He’s GONE?” Luci said.
“So I’m told,” Clarke answered from the other end of the phone line. “Jeeves apologizes profusely. Lee is trying to find Shady even now.”
“And I thought things couldn’t get any worse,” she muttered. “Now how are we supposed to deduce when he spoke with the police?”
“Clarke,” piped up Frank, listening in through speaker phone. “How influential are the LaMilles? If they wanted to, could they throw their daughter’s attempted murder case out of court, that sort of thing?”
“Possibly,” came the dubious answer. “But even if they were inclined to do it, Julie’s life would only become an even bigger hell, given how she’d owe them.”
“Except her parents might not do anything if we threatened to expose what they’ve already done to Julie. That’s not the sort of thing the LaMilles would want to be made public.”
“Whoa, hold on, Frank,” Luci objected. “Blackmail? That’s a big can of worms there.”
“Yeah, plus Julie HERSELF said she doesn’t want this to go public,” Clarke added. “Besides, her parents were always very careful. We have no proof.”
“Always?” Frank said, frustrated. “For sixteen years, no one ever saw or heard ANYTHING? That’s really hard to believe!”
There was the sound of Clarke drumming his fingers on something. “Well, we saw nothing,” Clarke reminded him. “And I’m pretty sure Jeeves and Mimi didn’t either. But maybe, if we look further back…”
“We have to. That’s the sort of proof Julie would need anyway,” Luci realized. “In order to get into proper counselling, over her parents’ likely objections or suggestions.”
“I’ll check with her and give you a call back,” Clarke decided.
“Okay,” Luci agreed. “We’ll be at Frank’s, making final adjustments on the time machine. Oh, also give us a call if you hear any more about our fugitive!”
“Will do,” Clarke agreed.
Frank took the call from Clarke less than a half hour later. Luci closed up the time machine even as he hung up. She turned. “What’s the word?”
“You want the good news or the bad news?”
“We could use some good news about now.”
Frank nodded. “Julie managed to recall a time, back before she was ten, when a servant came back unexpectedly and caught her parents chewing her out. The woman, who had worked with them for three years prior to that event, was dismissed soon after – though Julie recalls her being a sympathetic individual. If we track her down, she could be our evidence.”
“Okay. And the bad news?”
“Two flavours,” he sighed. “First, Julie’s too shaken up right now to remember any more, and then when Clarke went to check the records being stored in the mansion himself? The ones detailing the servants for that period of time were missing. Jeeves recalls a small fire some time last year, shortly after the LaMilles transferred those very same records to the house.”
“How convenient,” Luci said dryly.
“My thoughts exactly. Second problem, Chartreuse called Clarke with an update. It seems that Shady is making another play for Carrie in the present, which could render all of our efforts to restore this timeline to a sense of normalcy rather moot.”
Luci resisted the urge to bang her head down on the table. “Joy. Okay, one problem at a time. When was this small fire? Maybe we can time travel back to before it took place, and obtain the information THEN.”
“And how do you propose we get into the LaMille mansion to retrieve it?” Frank countered. “Julie from the past would never let us stroll in and search. The only one of us who might have a chance is Clarke, and tampering with his past connections to Julie could cause us much bigger problems now.”
“That’s true, but there must be some way! Maybe we could go back in time a year, to a day when we were all in Grade 10, and tell a past version that if they ever see a chance to…” Luci stopped. She felt lightheaded. “Oh my God.”
“It fits. Oh my God. My second day of high school. It fits!”
“What fits? Luci, what are you talking about?”
Luci took a deep breath, as the missing piece that had puzzled her for over a year snapped into place. “It’s my missing day, Frank. The second day of high school has always been a complete blank to me. All I know is that it had something to do with me getting involved with Julie and Corry, not to mention seriously ticking Carrie off somehow. I’ve always wondered if there was more to it than simple amnesia.”
“What, are we heading into ‘Butterfly Effect’ territory here? Because that movie series was not–”
“It’s more,” Luci interrupted. “Consider that while I might have grown a little since then, it’s negligible, and after Linquist I’m only ballpark my real age anyway.” She took a deep breath. “You say the only place we can get these records is in the past? Fine. None of you knew me at the start of last year. So we’re about to use the time machine to travel back to that September, at which point you will leave a note in my locker, getting me out of the way, so that I can take the place of my younger self for a day.”
He stared. “Luci, that’s crazy.”
“Maybe,” she admitted. “Thing is? If I’m right, it’s already happened anyway.”
(Option: Go With Luci, Full Circle, Back to Part 25)